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04-06-04 Easter will come alive at Celina church

By Shelley Grieshop

One man’s message from God has motivated a local congregation to share a live production of Jesus’ last days on earth.
   Members of Mount Carmel Church of God in rural Celina will host Easter Alive, a drive-through display of four stations, this Friday and Saturday evening from 8-10 p.m. There is no codege for the event.
   The church is located at the intersection of Erastus-Durbin and Carmel Church roads, west of Celina. The endeavor is a first for the small, country congregation.
   “No, we’ve never done anything like this before,” Pastor Mark Wakeland said with a laugh. “It is truly amazing.”
   What’s amazing is that at least 65 church members are participating in the outdoor production — that’s more than half of those who attend the small church.
   Floodlights will lead motorists on a slow 5-minute drive around the church, from the west to the north, directed by sheriff’s deputies. The first station will show Jesus’ “triumphant entry” on a donkey into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday). Next, Jesus and his disciples will be depicted at the Last Supper. The third station is Jesus’ crucifixion, and the final depiction is the empty tomb, the symbol of the Resurrection.
   Drivers will be asked to lower their windows to hear the Scripture message being played near each station.
   According to Wakeland, a man in the congregation admitted several months ago during an Experiencing God class that he had been asked by the Lord to do a live drive through of Jesus’ death and rising. (The man asked that his name not be revealed.)
   The man said God asked him to do this three or four years ago but he refrained. However, as he spoke about it during the class, God touched the hearts of everyone around him and soon the monumental task was being planned, Wakeland said.
   Church member Deanna Miller said it’s ironic that many of the people who are in codege of Easter Alive were new to the parish about the time God first spoke to the man.
   “But it was too soon then. The talent wasn’t all together yet,” Miller said with conviction.
   To the congregation’s amazement, most of the items needed for such a huge undertaking were donated — some of it from non-members. Donations came from a company in Fort Wayne, Ind., which at no codege created the signs posted around the local area. The wood used for the Last Supper table and the 6-foot-high cave structure were found inside church member Judy Bonvillians’s barn, Wakeland said.
   To keep the scenes as realistic as possible, a live donkey has been trained to parade Jesus into the city. Also, Jesus will hang on a wooden cross in a field behind the church, dressed only in a loin cloth.
   “We’re really hoping for good weather,” Wakeland laughed.
   The actors and actresses at each station will be rotated so no one is exposed to the weather for a long period of time, he added.
   Perhaps the most impressive part of the project is the makeshift cave, which depicts the place where Jesus was placed after being taken down from the cross. Randy Mullins, a Mercer Countian (not of the congregation) who makes realistic-looking rocks and formations as a part-time business, graciously donated his expertise, said church member Jeff Hayes.
   “He showed us how to carve out the cave and make rocks out of spray Styrofoam,” Hayes said as he pointed to several of the 3-foot-high creations with speakers enclosed.
   Some of the finish for the granite-looking boulders came from insulation removed from a nearby chicken house, Wakeland added.
   “Everyone’s been trying to make the perfect rock,” Hayes said with a laugh. “I decided to leave that up to the Lord.”
   Hayes and three others including his wife, Carol, worked diligently Saturday on the cave and other items, which filled Bonvillian’s garage a country block from the church. Meanwhile, others were in the church basement sizing up and trying on home-sewn costumes — brown, tan and blue robes, the dull colors of clothing depicted in Biblical times.
   Wakeland said the project has gone “very much beyond our church,” and has definitely been touched by God’s hand.
   “It’s a God-sized assignment, something we would not be able to do without his divine help and guidance,” he said. “When we needed something, it just came.”
   Hayes said the project is already a success because it has brought the congregation closer.
   “I feel if the first car doesn’t ever drive through, it won’t matter. The church has been blessed,” Hayes said.


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